Friday, May 29, 2015

The #FridayReads Review (5/29/15)



Welcome to The Friday Reads Review, a regular Friday segment where I share what I've been reading the past week! Want to join the Friday fun? Post your own Friday Reads Review on your blog, and then leave the link in the Comments below!

I've finally finished beta-reading (although I still have to type up my notes XP) so after a month's absence I'm back to reading novels again - and that means The #FridayReads Review returns as well!


>> CURRENTLY READING <<
The Leveller (The Leveller, #1)My Love Story!!, Vol. 3

The Leveller by Julia Durango (ARC)
One of my most anticipated reads this year! I start it with lunch today - can't wait!

My Love Story!! vol. 3 by Kazune Kawahara (PBK)
The series is growing on me so I'm giving more volumes a try.


>> JUST FINISHED <<
The Fill-In BoyfriendKamisama Kiss, Vol. 18Drug and Drop Volume 2

The Fill-In Boyfriend by Kasie West (ARC)
ALL THE STARS. Possibly her best yet for me - could not put it down. I always forget just how much I love Kasie's stories until I start a new one and then it's like coming home. Review to come. 

Kamisama Kiss vol. 18 by Julietta Suzuki (PBK)
4.5 Stars. Was hoping for a little more change with Nanami and Tomoe, but still absolutely loved it.

Drug & Drop vol. 2 by CLAMP (PBK)
3 Stars. We finally learn what other CLAMP manga this connects to! But it's not one I was hoping for. Bummer.


>> READING NEXT <<
The Improbable Theory of Ana and Zak
The Improbable Theory of Ana & Zak by Brian Katcher (ARC)
Because of #booksfortrade I honestly have so many awesome titles to read I have a hard time choosing, but since it's comic-con season and I'm not attending any I'm leaning towards this.


So what are you reading this week?

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

WoW: Court of Fives (Kate Elliott)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly blogging event hosted by Breaking the Spine, in which one spotlights an upcoming release they are eagerly anticipating.

This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:


Court of Fives (Court of Fives, #1)
Title: Court of Fives
Author: Kate Elliott
Release Date: August 18, 2015
Publisher: Little, Brown BYR
Summary:
In this imaginative escape into an enthralling new world, World Fantasy Award finalist Kate Elliott begins a new trilogy with her debut young adult novel, weaving an epic story of a girl struggling to do what she loves in a society suffocated by rules of class and privilege.

Jessamy's life is a balance between acting like an upper class Patron and dreaming of the freedom of the Commoners. But at night she can be whomever she wants when she sneaks out to train for The Fives, an intricate, multi-level athletic competition that offers a chance for glory to the kingdom's best competitors. Then Jes meets Kalliarkos, and an unlikely friendship between a girl of mixed race and a Patron boy causes heads to turn. When a scheming lord tears Jes's family apart, she'll have to test Kal's loyalty and risk the vengeance of a powerful clan to save her mother and sisters from certain death.

Why I'm Looking Forward To It: This was on my radar for a while (I'm a sucker for competitions in fantasy settings), but after one of my favorite authors personally recommended it a few months ago (I recently discovered she even blurbed the book!) I've been super-eager to get my hands on it! 


So what book are you waiting on?

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Guest Review: Wild Hearts (Jessica Burkhart)

Wild Hearts (If Only . . ., #4)
Title: Wild Hearts
Series: If Only..., Book 4
Author: Jessica Burkhart
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Release Date: May 5, 2015
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Content Rating: Teen (kissing, minor violence)
Format Read: ARC (publisher)
Find OnGoodreads
Summary:

Brie Carter's father's land development business has taken her family all over the world, but as soon as they arrive at their new home in Lost Spring, Wyoming, the town turns out to protest. They don't want a new hotel if the resident mustang population will be displaced or hurt as part of the deal. Then Brie meets Logan, a gorgeous local who has a special connection to the mustangs, and she is immediately drawn to him . . . and the horses. However, with Logan's father leading the protests and Brie's father refusing to budge, it's clear that their parents are heading towards an all-out war. Can Brie and Logan find a way to save the mustangs and be together? Or is their love doomed from the start? 

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Review copy provided by publisher for an honest review. Thank you, Bloomsbury!

Guest Review by Brett

In a Nutshell:

I wanted to love this book - I really did. I love the idea behind Bloomsbury's If Only... series, and I've really enjoyed the others that I have read. Unfortunately, Wild Hearts didn't quite live up to my expectations. The plot itself was good, but it wore thin a few times. The characters were good, though they occasionally did things that I didn't think felt true to their characters. And the writing was good - except when it wasn't. There are only so many things that you can blame on it being an ARC. And while it wasn't as bad as some other books I've read, there was definitely some insta-love going on. 

The Characters:

Our main character, Brie, was a bit of a rebel. She went from being perfect, working with her father in his office and never really getting into trouble, to running around and hiding her new boyfriend, Logan - in only a few chapters. While there was some inner monologuing about how she hated to have secrets from her parents, it never really felt like she was actually sorry about it. In the end, she and her parents were good again, but in my eyes, she never really redeemed herself. 

Logan, the love interest, is supposedly one of the boys that all of the girls at the local high school swoon over - but the only other teenager we ever see in the book is Amy, who conveniently becomes Brie's best friend. While I thought Brie and Amy's friendship itself was pretty realistic, I couldn't get past how perfectly everything fell into place. Logan and Amy themselves were decently well rounded characters - maybe it's because they weren't POV characters, so I wasn't as critical of them. Logan is a dreamy book boyfriend, perfectly sweet to Brie. Amy is the best girl-friend I've always wanted to have. Logan and Amy were two of the redeeming points of this book for me.

The Story:

Like the rest of this book, the plot was just so... convenient, for lack of a better word. The obstacles were solved too easily and the characters were always exactly where they needed to be. While you expect certain things from a book like this - a cute romance with a happy ending - things shouldn't be so easy. Without conflict a story is boring, and the conflict that was there wasn't enough to make it compelling for me.

The Writing:

Oh, the writing in this book. First of all, it felt more MG than YA in my opinion. Second, there were brand names everywhere, which kept pulling me out of the story as I tried to figure out whether this was an actual brand name, or a made up one - there were both. (By the way, if you're writing a contemporary book, don't come up with your own social networking site called Space-book.) Third, I know that it was an ARC, but the amount of typos, formatting errors, and grammar mistakes were really throwing me off. I don't know if those were fixed in the final version, but there were just so many of them. 

The Horses:

The horses were the biggest redeeming factor of this book for me. I love horses, and it seemed like the author really knew what she was writing about. The horse parts were the few parts where I could forget how convenient everything else was and just enjoy the romance and the horses.

Conclusion:

I may not have loved this book - the issues were too much for me to ignore - but I didn't hate it either. If you're okay with insta-love and a super convenient plot, then I'm sure you'd love this book. For me, it was a solid three star read. I will most likely not be re-reading this book, but I look forward to the next book in Bloomsbury's If Only... line, and hope that it will meet my expectations a little more than this one did. 

For Fans Of: horses, cowboys, insta-love

Note from Skye: I originally requested this title to review myself. I love horses and thought I would enjoy it, but I had many of the same problems with it as Brett did and was unable to finish. As I only got 56 pages in, I wanted Wild Hearts to get an honest review on a full read - thank you, Brett! :)

Scribble Rating
3 of 5 Scribbles


Brett Jonas is a writer, reader, Christian, lover of chocolate, and over-user of smiley faces. After being homeschooled her whole life, she's now taking classes at the local community college and working in her family's business, Goat Milk Stuff, with her seven younger siblings. In the rare moments when she's not writing, reading, working, or doing homework, you can find her wasting time on Twitter as @BookSquirt, where she loves making friends, and using too many exclamation points.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

WoW: Insidious (Dawn Metcalf)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly blogging event hosted by Breaking the Spine, in which one spotlights an upcoming release they are eagerly anticipating.

This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:


b2ap3_thumbnail_Insidious-cover.jpg
Title: Insidious (The Twixt #3)
Author: Dawn Metcalf
Release Date: August 25, 2015
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Summary:
True evil is rarely obvious. It is quiet, patient. 

Insidious. 

Awaiting the perfect moment to strike. 

Joy Malone finally knows who she is, where she comes from and how to live in two worlds at once. And now she can introduce her family and friends to her mysterious boyfriend, Indelible Ink. But when Ink's twin sister, Invisible Inq, calls in a favor, Joy must accept a dangerous mission to find a forgotten door between worlds—a door hiding a secret that some will kill to keep. 

Unseen enemies, treasonous magic and an unthinkable betrayal threaten both the Twixt and human worlds as Joy races to expose an ancient conspiracy and unleash the unalterable truth—some secrets cannot remain secret forever.

Why I'm Looking Forward To It: With yesterday's cover reveal (isn't it gorgeous?! Check out the official reveal on YABC here and enter to win the first 3 books!) I can finally make this an official WoW pick! This is Book 3 of The Twixt series, and after how Book 2, Invisible, ended, I can't get my hands on this pretty soon enough! (If you haven't yet checked out the first two books in The Twixt series, I highly recommend them - find out more about them here!)


So what book are you waiting on?

Monday, May 18, 2015

Manga Review: InuYasha: A Feudal Fairytale Series (Rumiko Takahashi)

InuYasha: Turning Back Time (InuYasha, #1)InuYasha: Curtain of Time (InuYasha, #56)

Series Title: InuYasha: A Feudal Fairytale
Author: Rumiko Takahashi
Volume(s) Reviewed: 1-56 (complete series)
Publisher: VIZ Media
Release Date: April 2003 to January 2011
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Content Rating: Older Teen (strong violence and gore, minor language and sensuality, partial nudity)
Format Read: Paperback (own & library)
Find It On: Goodreads

Summary:

Transported back to Japan's feudal era, high school student Kagome teams up with half-demon dog boy Inu-Yasha and others to collect the shards of the Shikon Jewel and keep it out of the hands of half-demon Naraku who is bent on reforming the Jewel and becoming all-powerful.

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In a Sentence: Fast-paced and action-packed, this classic feudal adventure series was one of my first and shall always be one of my favorites.

Story: At 56 volumes, InuYasha sounds like a daunting story possibly too long for its own good, but it's a quick and engaging tale about the struggle of good versus evil and encompasses a lot of moral conundrums: love and hate, power and control, betrayal, sibling love and rivalry. Predominantly action, some volumes can take only a half-hour to read, and even the "slower" volumes only an hour. With all now released, I re-read the entire series in about two weeks. The plot arcs slide right into the next with very few downtime scenes as the group progresses from finding Shikon Jewel shards and slaying evil demons to defeating Naraku and his many minions. Considering the long journey of soul-searching all the characters go through, the end is rather profound and completely satisfying, and most get their happy ending.

Setting: At its heart this is a story of time travel, so there are two worlds: "present day" Japan (late 90s here) and a demon-infested feudal Japan. We spend most of the time in the past where an unrealistic amount of civilians are slaughtered by bandits, warriors, and demons, but it was necessary to the story. The trips back to the present were for the most part a peaceful respite from the carnage, especially for the characters, and set in the 90s it's interesting to see what has and hasn't changed compared to the more recent present-day manga.

Characters: Kagome was a pillar of human strength and perseverance. She accepted her destiny and didn't shy away from a fight or get squeamish despite the carnage. After the first few volumes she never even complained about the rough living and traveling conditions (although her bulging backpack from the present helped ;). InuYasha was his own pillar of strength in the face of adversity. As a half-demon he had vast limitations that he had to overcome to protect those he came to care for, and to find the power within him to grow stronger. I felt he was at his strongest and most impressive when he was at his most human (the night of the New Moon when he lost his demon powers), and those will always be my favorite battles.

The gang Kagome and InuYasha accumulated were a fun bunch - philandering monk Miroku and his deadly curse, demon-hunter Sango with her tragic past and serious family issues, little fox-demon Shippo and his blessed comic relief, and occasionally the wolf-demon Koga who added a much-needed love triangle on Kagome's side to rise some jealousy out of InuYasha. Priestess Kikyo was an interesting twist that, despite the wedge she placed between Kagome and InuYasha, was basically the heart of the entire conflict and added a lot of quality emotional resonance to both the good and evil sides. On the evil side, Naraku was the formidable adversary that you couldn't help but love to hate, although his final moments were a bit bittersweet and a little conflicting.

As a large series there were a large number of regulars, from Naraku's many spawn to the family and friends of all main characters involved, and each were unique and added clarity and depth to the story and its players.

Favorite Character: No contest my favorite character is InuYasha's older and full-demon brother, Sesshomaru. He's gorgeous, almost infinitely powerful, broody, and a man of very few words. But he was really nothing but a disgruntled sibling until he saved little orphan girl Rin, and Sesshomaru & Rin's scenes together, however brief, were pure perfection for me. His arc and growth were the highlight of the whole story, and I couldn't have been happier with his [open] ending.

Romantic Relationships: The romances in this book are seriously complicated, but InuYasha and Kagome's relationship is a doozy. InuYasha was previously in love with Kagome's former incarnation, Kikyo, so when Kikyo comes back into the picture he is conflicted. Still, he and Kagome maintain a strong bond that threads through the entire series, and their relationship was different and engaging. Miroku and Sango were another fraught couple, although their strife was mostly due to his wandering eye. ;)

Favorite Scenes:
  • The New Moon battles (when InuYasha is human): He seemed to have more stamina and strength and determination during these battles, and it made him all the more heroic.
  • InuYasha & Kagome in the present time: Although there were a few battles, most of the time these scenes were downtime for both of them, and InuYasha's clumsiness and vulnerability couldn't have been more adorable.
  • Anything with Sesshomaru & Rin
Pet Peeves: I did have two major pet peeves that I have yet to get over:
  1. Kagome's Father. Where in the heck was Kagome's father?!? The whole series was fraught with father issues (InuYasha/Sesshomaru, Shippo, Miroku, even Sango/Kohaku), yet she never once pondered her father's status (alive and out of the picture, dead, abandoned them??). She and her mother and brother live at her grandfather's temple, but she nor anyone else even so much as prayed to a butsudan home altar so I was simply left confused and without an answer.
  2. Where was Naraku during the opening 50-year gap? We get a little insight with Miroku's backstory, I guess? But that's about it. Naraku seemed to have existed in a black hole while InuYasha was sealed and then emerged back into the world of the living with him. Considering his ruthless ambition, how could he have not at least tried to make a name for himself in the over 50 years InuYasha was out of the picture?
Art: The art began a little rough, and over the eight-year run eventually became a little too simplistic, in my opinion - after 56 volumes I think Rumiko just wanted to finish it as quickly as possible. But cute characters were cute, grotesque characters were grotesque, the action was well paced, the movement smooth, and no matter the volume Sesshomaru was magnificent.

Conclusion: While a lengthy series, InuYasha is a fast and entertaining read that I recommend for fantasy and feudal manga lovers who can devote a few weeks of open reading time - because once you start, it's hard to stop.


Scribble Rating
4 1/2 out of 5 Scribbles


Tuesday, May 12, 2015

THE WRATH & THE DAWN (Renee Ahdieh) Release Day Blitz + Giveaway


Already a HUGE hit this year, THE WRATH AND THE DAWN by Renée Ahdieh releases today, and I am excited to share in the celebration! If you haven’t yet heard about this amazing book be sure to check out all the details below, along with a special introduction from Renée herself! This blitz also includes a giveaway for a signed copies of the book and some beautiful book inspired scarves, courtesy of Renée, Penguin Teen, and Rockstar Book Tours. So if you’d like a chance to win, enter at the bottom of this post!


A letter from Renée Ahdieh

There are not enough words to express how thrilled I am to share THE WRATH AND THE DAWN with you! From the moment I typed the first word, I felt connected to Shahrzad and her world in a way that carried me through the long process of publication to where we are today. 

Everything about this process has been a dream come true, and hope you love my book half as much as I enjoyed writing it. In celebration of release day, I'll be giving away a signed, first edition hardcover of the book, as well as a gorgeous scarf . . . or two!

Always remember to make it a story worthy of you!

Renée


ABOUT THE BOOK

Title: THE WRATH & THE DAWN
Author: Renée Ahdieh
Pub. Date: May 12, 2015
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Pages: 388

A sumptuous and epically told love story inspired by A Thousand and One Nights

Every dawn brings horror to a different family in a land ruled by a killer. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, takes a new bride each night only to have her executed at sunrise. So it is a suspicious surprise when sixteen-year-old Shahrzad volunteers to marry Khalid. But she does so with a clever plan to stay alive and exact revenge on the Caliph for the murder of her best friend and countless other girls. Shazi's wit and will, indeed, get her through to the dawn that no others have seen, but with a catch . . . she’s falling in love with the very boy who killed her dearest friend.

She discovers that the murderous boy-king is not all that he seems and neither are the deaths of so many girls. Shazi is determined to uncover the reason for the murders and to break the cycle once and for all. 


PURCHASE LINKS:



ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Renée lives in North Carolina (Go Heels!) with her husband Victor and their dog Mushu. Her YA fantasy novel, THE WRATH AND THE DAWN, will be published on May 12th, 2015. In her spare time, she likes to cook, dance salsa, and wreak havoc on the lives of her characters. She’s also a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, as well as an active member of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America.





GIVEAWAY

3 winners will receive a hardcover of THE WRATH AND THE DAWN and a beautiful book inspired scarf (IMAGES BELOW)! US Only. Ends on May 22nd at Midnight EST!



a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, May 11, 2015

Review: Hold Me Like a Breath (Tiffany Schmidt)

Hold Me Like a Breath (Once Upon a Crime Family, #1)
Title: Hold Me Like a Breath
Series: Once Upon a Crime Family #1
Author: Tiffany Schmidt
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Release Date: May 19, 2015
Genre: Young Adult Suspense
Content Rating: Older Teen (minor sensuality, violence and minor disturbing images, grief)
Format Read: ARC (publisher)
Find It OnGoodreads
Summary:

Penelope Landlow has grown up with the knowledge that almost anything can be bought or sold—including body parts. She’s the daughter of one of the three crime families that control the black market for organ transplants.

Penelope’s surrounded by all the suffocating privilege and protection her family can provide, but they can't protect her from the autoimmune disorder that causes her to bruise so easily.

And in her family's line of work no one can be safe forever.

All Penelope has ever wanted is freedom and independence. But when she’s caught in the crossfire as rival families scramble for prominence, she learns that her wishes come with casualties, that betrayal hurts worse than bruises, that love is a risk worth taking . . . and maybe she’s not as fragile as everyone thinks.


*          *          *

In a Sentence: An engrossing, surreal tale about grief, love, family, and finding the strength to stand on your own.

I'm fascinated by characters with unusual diseases and disorders (no cancer though thank you), so this was a must-read just for the autoimmune aspect alone. That it was also about a crime family, and a fairytale retelling? Be still my heart.

I was immediately engaged from Page 1 by Penelope's life and environment. Even though she was stuck at home with little to do for most of the first half of the book I was reluctant to put it down, and by the end I would've been up half the night finishing it if my health had permitted. This didn't feel like a particularly fast read, though - the writing was easy and engaging, but the content was weighty with well-crafted scenes, intrigue, the fascinating premise, Penelope's grief, and just the right amount of detail.

This is a story of "you don't know what you have until it's gone" mixed with "you can't truly know someone, no matter how long you've known them." Sheltered because of her condition by a loving family, Penelope dreamed of nothing but escape - until her life of privilege and protection was ripped away and she found herself alone to fend for herself. She understandably struggled at first, but slowly discovered a lot more strength in herself then she could've ever imagined - that her condition didn't have to be the end of the world; that she could have a life, and live it. She pushed and broke her boundaries, and although I don't have a sickness anywhere near as bad as hers, I could relate and found her perseverance inspiring.

The setting was for the most part realistic, but there were some occasionally disorienting surreal aspects. The romance was definitely of the fairytale variety, although she was no damsel-in-distress to his save-the-day prince - just the opposite, in fact. The true romantic interest wasn't introduced until over halfway through the book, which came rather out of the blue for me, but the romance lightened the otherwise grief-heavy story and gave hope to Penny and her future.

Conclusion: An intense and thoroughly engaging story that I recommend for those who love fairytale romances and/or crime family dramas. Looking forward to the second book in the Once Upon a Crime Family series next year!

For Fans Of: fairytale romances, crime family dramas, unusual illnesses


Scribble Rating
4 out of 5 Scribbles


Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Cover Reveal & Giveaway: THE NIGHTMARE CHARADE (Mindee Arnett)

Welcome to the “official” cover reveal of The Nightmare Charade, the final installment of The Arkwell Academy series by Mindee Arnett from Tor Teen! Below check out the (almost but not quite final) cover and find out more about what it foretells from the author herself! And be sure to enter to win a signed ARC at the end - good luck!


THE COVER


Title: The Nightmare Charade
Author: Mindee Arnett
Publisher: Tor Teen
Pub. Date: August 4, 2015

It’s her junior year at Arkwell Academy and Dusty Everhart just wants to be alone with her boyfriend, Eli Booker. But fate is literally keeping them apart. See, Dusty is a Nightmare, who can enter Eli’s dreams to find clues to the future, but an ancient curse predicts that any romance between them is doomed to end in tragedy. Dusty and Eli are willing to take that risk, but the authorities disagree—and have assigned a chaperone to make sure their relationship is strictly platonic.

As if that’s not bad enough, they’ve been recruited by the Department of Intelligence for Magickind Secrecy (D.I.M.S.) to use their dream-seer bond to help recover the most powerful object of black magic known to magickind. The Animus Mortem can raise the dead by stealing the souls of the living… which makes tracking it down a genuine matter of life and death.

To make matters worse, one of Dusty’s friends is accused of murder, and is counting on her to clear his name.

Dusty has too many dreams, too many commitments, and too many people looking over her shoulder, but a Nightmare seldom plays by the rules. Curse or no curse, chaperone or not, she has to go deep into Eli’s dreams if she’s going to find the truth—and discover a way for them to truly be together at last!


PRE-ORDER LINKS:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository


A Note From the Author:

Hello! And thanks for coming to my “official” cover reveal. By that I mean, the cover has been leaked for months now, but we’re not going to let that stop us from celebrating! So firstly, can I just say how much I love this one? I’ve been lucky in all my covers for the Arkwell Academy series, but I adore this color so much. We almost made book 2 this color, but it worked out so much better for this one. Thanks so much to the artist Kate Forester and to my brilliant editor, Whitney Ross.

So what exactly are we looking at here with the strange boat and river scene? Well, if you guessed “dream sequence” then you’re right. Charade starts off two months after the end of The Nightmare Dilemma. Dusty has just returned from a summer-long tour of Europe with her mother, and she’s eager to reconnect with Eli. But of course their reunion doesn’t go as planned when they are interrupted by a magickind special agent who has come to recruit them for a special—and dangerous—task.

What else can you expect? Well, there’s kissing, and magic, old enemies and new, and kissing, and scary dreams, and good friends, and action, oh and more kissing. Sadly, there are also a few casualties as well. This really is the end of the story for Dusty and Eli, but I hope you enjoy the ride!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mindee Arnett lives on a horse farm in Ohio with her husband, two kids, a couple of dogs, and an inappropriate number of cats. She’s addicted to jumping horses and telling tales of magic, the macabre, and outer space. She has far more dreams than nightmares. She debuted with The Nightmare Affair, the first book in The Arkwell Academy series in March 2013 from Tor Teen; the sequel, The Nightmare Dilemma, released March 2014. She also has a two-book YA Sci-Fi series, Avalon.

Website   Twitter   Goodreads   Facebook   Tumblr



THE GIVEAWAY

2 Winners will receive signed ARCs of The Nightmare Charade!
Open Internationally | closes midnight EST on May 13, 2015

Sunday, May 3, 2015

The Men and Their Masks in Nobody's Goddess (Amy McNulty) Blog Tour Guest Post + Giveaway

Welcome to my stop on the Nobody's Goddess blog tour! Here author Amy McNulty goes into detail about some of the different masks the men wear in her book, and some of the magic behind it. If you haven't check out the book yet, be sure to do so after the guest post, and you can enter to win a digital copy at the end! 

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The Men and Their Masks in Nobody’s Goddess: Common Masks the Men Wear

The first character in what would one day become Nobody’s Goddess to cover his face was the mysterious lord, and he wears a black veil wrapped around his entire head (pinned at the shoulder and covered with a black minstrel-style hat to make it look slightly less ridiculous). He’s the only character to make it to the finished book from a shelved manuscript, and he was originally the only one who covered his face.

When I decided to scrap most of that draft, his character inspired my idea for the “hook” for the next one: What if all the men in the village had to cover their faces? Why would that be? I settled on the magic spell (some might say curse) that compels each man in the village to devote himself to one woman, wherein he’s only able to remove his facial coverings if he earns her love.

The magic works like this: a boy or man who’s yet to have his love Returned (it’s a big deal—they capitalize the word and everything) can show his face to any other male or to females who are blood-related to him, so their mothers, sisters, aunts (by blood, not marriage), grandmothers, and cousins can all look at them and not cause them harm. The idea is that none of these women will prove their goddesses, the women they’ll be in love with, and they all love these men and boys by default as members of their family, so the men don’t have to prove themselves worthy of these women’s love. I don’t think any man would risk showing his face to distant relatives (like a second cousin once removed), as those could in fact prove goddess material, but they feel safe around those in their immediate family.

If any woman unrelated to a man looks upon his uncovered face, he’ll die. The villagers don’t remember it actually happening to anyone they know, but they’re not willing to take the chance and try it to make sure the magic is working. It’s a peaceful village, and the women in the village certainly don’t want to put men at risk. It’s easier for men whose love has not yet been Returned to cover their faces so everyone can be about their business.

Still, it’s hard to eat like that and it does get rather stuffy for the poor boys even though they’re used to it, so the villagers frequently allow boys to play and men to socialize in the Great Hall without masks on and no women are allowed to enter during these times. Boys and men who still wear masks will often eat together at home, too. Boys can take off their masks around their mothers and sisters, so they can usually eat as a family safely at home. No other woman would dare enter unannounced without giving them a chance to cover up their faces.

I still wanted my veiled lord to stand apart from the rest, so I decided that men in the village wore masks instead of veils. (Although mothers tend to cover up their male babies by draping veils over their bassinets.) They could really cover their faces with anything, but they’ve lived this way for so many generations, they’ve made it a tradition to wear animal masks for the most part.

Here are three important types of masks the men in the village wear, which are all made from wood and all have black veil material over the eyeholes so the boys and men can see out through a hazy film, but women can’t clearly see in:

Everyday Animal Masks


Men wear masks of their favorite animals, which they know from the livestock fields and the woods in the village. (There are no exotic animals they’ve never heard of.) So that means a lot of forest and farm animals. (There are even some fish designs as there’s a large pond of water in the livestock farm area.) Noll’s father, as the village’s primary Woodcarver, carves most of the designs, but amateurs can make their own, or they might buy them from Alvilda, Jurij’s aunt, a woman carver who took up an occupation rather than pledge her love to the man who found the goddess in her. They’ll also take hand-me-downs from previous generations.

Some boys prefer to wear mostly the same mask and others have a lot of masks and they change them every day. Jurij and his younger brother Luuk have a lot of masks because their aunt makes them and there are hand-me-downs for Luuk. The carvers try not to repeat a design, or if they do use the same animal, to make it unique enough that it’s easy for people to tell the men and boys wearing them apart. Jurij’s and Luuk’s, for example, have button noses because their parents are the village’s Tailors. Younger boys wear a lot of cuter animal designs, like rabbits, kittens and puppies. Boys who are more outgoing or older opt for more elegant or powerful designs like stags and wolves.

Worn Down Animal Masks


By the time they’re in their late teens, most men can remove their masks because their love has been Returned. (They even hold a special Returning ceremony when a goddess is seventeen or older and is willing to proclaim her love for her man; during this, the man removes his mask is front of everyone and enjoys a kiss from his goddess.) But there are some women who simply don’t love the men who’ve found the goddess in them. Some of these women are honest and tell their men to leave them alone as they’ll never love them. In despair, these men move into what’s called “the commune,” a collection of shoddy shacks at the edge of the village where unloved men are depressed and do no good for the community because all they can think about is how they love women who will never love them back. They still wear masks out of habit or because they don’t want to die and be parted from their loves forever, but they never change them, so they get worn down and cracked and chipped. To make up for these men being of no use to the village, the women who reject them take up an occupation themselves.

Some women will marry their men but still not feel comfortable enough to perform a Returning. (If she’s not sure she loves her man, she’ll kill him, and she can’t bring herself to risk that.) So these men live somewhat normal lives with families, but they still can’t take their masks off around any woman unrelated to them by blood—including their own wives! They tend to wear the same mask, too, because they’re done with their youthful days of fun, and the mask is more of a burden than a temporary thing. Jurij’s father is still masked, and he always wears the same owl mask, which is cracked and worn down.

Ceremonial Masks


There’s one special mask design that men only wear twice in their lives (possibly more if they have sons), and it resembles a man’s face. (Notice that they have pointed ears. All men in the village do, but the women don’t.) It’s a symbolic gesture. He wears it for his Returning ceremony, the last time he’ll ever have to wear a mask. The villagers don’t know it, but the reason for this design originated many generations before: If the man did die in the Returning, he at least had one opportunity to walk around with a human face.

A man also wears this mask at his wedding, which can’t occur until both he and his goddess are at least seventeen years old. Many couples get married immediately after a Returning (during which the woman must be at least seventeen, but the man can be younger), but sometimes, if the man is younger or they want another celebration later, it’ll come weeks, months or years after. The man wears this mask again as he walks up the aisle to his bride-to-be and removes it when he stands beside her. His life is not in danger anymore, but it represents who he used to be (a masked man) and how his bride/goddess is the one who allowed him to remove his mask. A father escorts his son down the aisle and also wears this mask to echo his son’s journey. (If, like Jurij’s father, the father still has to wear a mask to protect his life, he wears this human one on top of his animal one.)

It’s easy to think of all the “what ifs…?” when it comes to the mask rules in the village of Nobody’s Goddess. Believe me, I spent a lot of time thinking about it! I’d love it if readers debated how everything worked, and used all of the information revealed throughout the book to understand how things got this way in the first place.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Amy McNulty is a freelance writer and editor from Wisconsin with an honors degree in English. She was first published in a national scholarly journal (The Concord Review) while in high school and currently spends her days alternatively writing on business and marketing topics and primarily crafting stories with dastardly villains and antiheroes set in fantastical medieval settings.




ABOUT THE BOOK

Title: Nobody's Goddess
Author: Amy NcMulty
Release Date: April 21, 2015
Publisher: Month9Books
Summary

In a village of masked men, magic compels each man to love only one woman and to follow the commands of his “goddess” without question. A woman may reject the only man who will love her if she pleases, but she will be alone forever. And a man must stay masked until his goddess returns his love—and if she can’t or won’t, he remains masked forever.

Seventeen-year-old Noll isn't in the mood to celebrate. Her childhood friends have paired off and her closest companion, Jurij, found his goddess in Noll’s own sister. Desperate to find a way to break this ancient spell, Noll instead discovers why no man has ever chosen her. 

Thus begins a dangerous game between the choice of woman versus the magic of man. And the stakes are no less than freedom and happiness, life and death—and neither is willing to lose.

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